Tuesday, April 26, 2011
V is for Vermeer
Jan Vermeer is one of my favorite painters because of his devotion to perfection.
Records on the Dutch master who lived from 1632 to 1675 are scant and there's no indication he left his native town of Delft, which appears to be one of those sleepy Dutch towns of weeping willows, verges choked with tulips and mellow church towers that shimmer under the big skies of the flat lands.
There's no evidence that Vermeer did the typical painter things like chopping off the occasional ear and falling into fits of depression, rage and debauchery but we really don't know much about him.
Rather he quietly enjoyed the light and created some of the finest masterpieces known to the history of art, albeit in an economical way. Only 40 of his works have come to light.
"The secret of Vermeer's craftsmanship may be found in a remark by Michelangelo, who said that little things or trifles, done to perfection, build up into great things or art," Thomas Craven wrote in the Readers Digest Treasury of Great Painters.
The Little Street by Vermeer is one of only two landscapes that have come to light. It was apparently the view from his house and typifies a sleepy Dutch backwater back in the 17th century.
I picked up a postcard of this painting after a somewhat heavy night in Amsterdam with some friends years ago and found myself yearning to explore some quiet streets in the weak sunlight.